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Media Convergence: James Travers quits Ottawa Citizen

In the world of mega mergers and convergence, there's growing concern about a monopoly of ideas. Reporters argue increased ownership will shake the very foundation democracy is founded upon. Owners say it's the only way Canadian newspapers can survive in the new global economy. Press ownership has been officially debated, studied and scrutinized in Canada since the 1969 Royal Commission on Newspapers. Is freedom of the press guaranteed only to those who own one? It's a debate that continues to percolate.

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It's been a bad month for Conrad Black. Another editor has resigned from a major newspaper in the Southam chain, now owned by Black's Hollinger Inc. Just weeks after Joan Fraser leaves the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen editor Jim Travers gives his notice. The two prominent editors cite differences of opinions with the papers new owner for their departure. Black has vowed to make changes to the newspapers he has acquired in the Southam takeover.

He promises to put an end to the "overwhelming avalanche of soft, left, bland, envious pap which has poured like sludge through the centre pages of the Southam papers for some time." Travers accuses Black of thinking that all Southam journalists are "long-haired, dope-smoking freaks left over from the seventies." Officially, Travers, who has been editor of the Citizen since 1992, says his resignation is not just a response to the Hollinger takeover, but a move he has been considering for some time.

Fraser, the long-time editor of the Montreal Gazette, who was let go for being too soft on separatists, voices concern about the inevitable shrinkage of opinions when one person owns so many of Canada's newspapers. On the contrary, says Peter Atkinson of Hollinger Inc. Atkinson promises a greater diversity of opinions in Southam papers under Black's leadership. 
• Back in 1969 a 25-year-old Conrad Black testified before the Davey Commission. The owner of the Quebec daily Sherbrooke Daily Record gained notoriety when he referred to journalists as "ignorant, lazy, opinionated and intellectually dishonest." He went on to say that "the profession is heavily cluttered with aged hacks toiling through a miasma of mounting decrepitude and often alcoholism."

• By 1998 Conrad Black's Hollinger Inc., through its 59 per cent ownership of Southam Inc. and its string of Hollinger papers, controlled 66 of Canada's 105 dailies.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Oct. 7, 1996
Guest(s): Joan Fraser, Jim Travers
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Neil MacDonald
Duration: 2:42

Last updated: March 6, 2012

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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